Portland, Ore., Aug. 23–24—Within three hours after disembarking from a Texas-to-Portland whirlwind air trip, I had learned three important facts about the state. First, my Texas accent did not complement the name and I was quickly corrected. “It’s not ‘Or-ree-gone.’ We say, ‘Organ,’ like the body part.” (The earliest known use of this name was back in 1765 when a petition sent by a major to the Kingdom of Great Britain referred to the then-mythical River of the West [the Columbia] as the Ouragon.) OK… second, “Organ” has 234 craft beer-brewing facilities with 91 of them located in the Portland Metro area; more per capita than any other city in America (that’s cool). Third fact: this place rocks when it comes to motorcycle riding with street, dual-sport and off-road options which are some of the best along the west coast (super cool). But as much as I enjoy sampling craft beer and learning how to speak correctly, I was here for number 3—riding the latest 2016 Harleys in the Beaver State. Yep; they got that going for ’em, too—they’re the Beaver State.
Last year’s model launch upped The Motor Company’s ante severely with a cadre of no less than 35 models, 10 of them brand new and that’s not even counting the LiveWire electric exploratory project. And that had followed on the heels of the very successful Colorado launch of Project RUSHMORE the year before. So how does a company of this stature continue to impress? Bring on the dark and the cubes.
Lords of darkness
Our immersion into the new lineup began at SeeSee Motorcycles and Coffee Company, a kitschy little joint that’s half bar and grill and half bike shop. There we were introduced to the Dark Customs for 2016. We were glad to see the nasty wiring that had been left exposed when the XG500 and 750 Street were first unveiled has been rerouted making for a much tidier appearance. More subtle improvements included a relocated rear brake pedal allowing easier access along with completely new front and rear braking systems. The Iron 883 was reintroduced as a new bike due basically to the fitment of a new front end, adjustable rear suspension, lighter wheels and improvements in seating comfort. (In reality, the entire 2016 Sportster line has received a re-engineered suspension package that includes nitrogen gas-charged coil-over rear shocks with an adjustable progressive-rate spring preload along with cartridge damping forks that feature a calibrated piston and valve stack and progressive rate springs providing a more consistent feel during compression and extension, resisting wheel hop under hard braking.) But the highlight of the evening had to be the 1200X Forty-Eight that swapped its previous 38mm front end for a wider and much beefier 49mm. This stout-looking unit provides the missing link between bike and the large 16″ front rubber, completely changing the model’s overall stance. A heavy-duty, but attractive, fork brace doubles as the front fender mount while the new exhaust features unique cutouts in the chrome heat shields that reveal black mufflers underneath. Optional ABS and a security package are available for the entire Sportster line as well as for both the 500 and 750 Street.
In a surprise move, Harley unveiled two new models, the Fat Boy S and the Softail Slim S. Both come equipped with a Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B powerplant, the only models outside the CVO line sporting a 110″ engine displacement. And those extra inches are noticeable, especially in machines of this weight class, with a respectable power band and an increase in torque. (The balance of the Softail line each now features the air-cooled High Output Twin Cam 103B engine.) And while the Fat Boy S takes the notion of dark to new levels with only scant amounts of anything shiny, the Softail Slim S comes with an optional Olive Gold Denim (don’t call it “green”) paint scheme that features military-theme graphics. Both come with ABS, a security package and cruise control as standard. Changes to the remainder of the Softail line are mostly cosmetic (paint, medallions, graphics) with the exception of the electronic throttle control now stock on all models and a new left-hand cruise control coming standard on the Heritage Softail Classic and the Softail Deluxe.
All 2016 North American Dyna models will now feature the air-cooled High Output Twin Cam 103″ engine, excluding the Street Bob and the H-D1 Factory Customization Street Bob models.
It has been noted that Road Glide owners are the highest-mileage riders among all Harley customers. And after spending a full day in the saddle of a Road Glide, it’s easy to understand why. This model received a huge makeover last year with the aim to redesign the shark nose frame-mounted fairing and reduce the turbulence that was so prevalent. The result was a unit that was actually smaller and two inches closer to the operator. This resulted in what Harley terms the “rider triangle,” an area of increased air pressure that aids in eliminating rider buffeting. Along with the standard Splitstream air vent on the top of the fairing, designers also added twin vents on either side of the headlight bezel that can be opened or closed with a push-button toggle. The improvement in aerodynamic comfort was remarkable and has produced what may be the most enjoyable bike in The Motor Company fleet. For even greater highway pleasure as you gobble up the miles, Harley has introduced the new Road Glide Ultra for 2016, which has all of the above plus a Twin-Cooled High Output 103, an extra 4” of room for the passenger, a spacious Tour-Pak with passenger backrest, armrests and luggage rack, improved ergonomics and the BOOM! Box 6.5 GT audio system with 25 watts per channel and GPS—I fell totally in love with this bike during the launch and pissed several fellow journalists off when I was hesitant to share. (The Road Glide and Road Glide Special retain their air-cooled 103” engines this year, which is highlighted by a dramatic price difference.)
New for 2016, all CVO models now feature the TPMS readout. The Tire Pressure Monitoring System alerts the operator when there is a lower-than-optimum range of air pressure in either tire. Unlike most other makers who offer similar equipment, the TPMS is active even when the bike is at a full stop. This year’s CVOs also come with LED front turn signals and a new integrated key fob that unites proximity fob with barrel key into one unit. Across the board, for all 2016 Touring and Trike models, the primary drive housing and derby cover has been reduced in size, making for a narrower product and greater operator leg clearance.
Both the Tri-Glide Ultra and the Freewheeler basically remain unchanged for 2016.
With three new bikes being added in 2016, that brings the Harley-Davidson offerings to a dizzying 38 models, more than enough for any journalist to keep track of. But despite the staggering amount of models available there doesn’t seem to be an overabundant amount of overlap with The Motor Company’s advertising campaign of “Roll Your Own” being quite appropriate—a machine to fit most any taste.